Défi de L'Île de Montréal
128 km on inline skates
In answer to Rod Willmot's invitation, I'm writing these lines a few days after the 2001 edition of the Défi de l'Île, still thoroughly excited by my race. My legs have forgotten their fatigue. One rather surrealistic image comes back, the pre-dawn start and the strange impression, for the first few minutes, of not feeling the ground beneath my wheels. A pleasure mingled with fear that I might fall. What is it about skating that's so fascinating? The fragility of balance, the silent gliding over the trail, the sensation of speed... Can't find the words, you can't explain pleasure. A little after the start a trio pulled away, and in spite of a fall by Allison Turner (who got up right away), that trio (composed by Charles Beaudoin, Allison, and Bernard Doth), would finish in that order without ever being caught.
By the end of the first section, I was in a second pack with four companions. The fast skating along Lakeshore help us improve our rate of speed and we worked well together. On the hill at Senneville, Yuri Juteau caught up to us. His very effective double-push gradually helped him pull away. By around the 50th km there were only two of us, with Yuri a few minutes ahead. Brad Moffat started taking pulls. "We can do it in under 6 hours," he told me. He kept up an incredible pace! We went by Pie IX in 3:30, and our rate kept on improving on Gouin. Just before the 4th section I caught up to Yuri, who suddenly fell in front of me. Nothing serious, he bravely got going again. At the 100th km I checked my watch -- 4:15 -- anything is possible! Then comes the section we all fear the most, I know it well and know exactly where the bad parts are. 15 km from the end, I fall back from Brad, who hasn't weakened at all, but I still keep him in sight. Then suddenly a nail gets stuck in one of my wheels! I have to wait for help because I can't get it out by myself.
A few minutes would go by before a Défi volunteer would arrive to help me out. That nail made me lose all hope of finishing in under 6 hours. But knowing I was so close to the finish helped me take control over my fatigue. Just 3 km left and I've done over half the route alone. In the end I missed breaking 6 hours by just 10 minutes. Congratulations to all the participants!
That was a very intense day, shared with remarkable people.